Ménage a Trois: Querelle and Jules

Today we’re taking a stab at two fragrances with a niche fan base: Parfumerie Generale’s new(ish) Querelle, and Christian Dior’s hard-to-find men’s fragrance, Jules, from 1980. Are they the sexy/raunchy things they’re purported to be?

Querelle, part of the PG Private Collection, is named after the novel (Querelle de Brest) by author Jean Genet, and a 1982 film adaptation by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, with a plotline so confusing that six readings of the brief summary on Wikipedia left one of your blogmistresses puzzled (although she’s pretty sure she saw the flick at college, along with such classics as In The Realm of the Senses and Last Tango in Paris.) According to LuckyScent, “inspired by Jean Genet´s brutal and erotic tale of hidden desires and violence, Querelle is a scent of supreme elegance and forceful sensuality.” Notes are: citrus, Iranian black caraway, myrrh, cinnamon, Haitian vetiver, incense, oakmoss, ambergris.

  • Lee: It’s a chypre for sure, and even if I like chypres, they often give me the mother of all headaches. So, I sniff this beauty, marvel at the playfully soapy / barber shoppy opening (that smells like some version of the past), and am about to admire the transitions when wham! bam! the throb begins and queasiness comes along holding its hand. So it’s difficult for me to be properly subjective about this scent. I love how it works vetiver, I love the dark menace underneath the clean, but my body is in rebellion when I sniff it. It’s the chypre effect. I’m not sure how I relate it to Jean Genet’s Querelle, but that film bored me I think (I only have a hazy recollection, but Fassbinder’s quasi-mystical masochism has never appealed). I haven’t read the book. Much more impressive was Genet’s own prison film (off to wiki it) Un Chant d’Amour. Anyone seen it? Very EROTIC. Overall though, I’d prefer a Genet scent based on the late 60s onwards, when he got all politicised. I can only do so much existential angst.
  • Patty: I know I smelled this months ago and didn’t like it (hated it!) and gave it away (to you, March?). Now it’s back. I do get raunch – more buttcrack than siren – and that open just makes me slightly queasy, but this time it seems to blow off pretty quickly and leaves me with…. a scent I really like. How in the heck did that happen?
  • March: This is the fierce, brutally erotic raunch-factory I’ve been reading about? Okay, I must be damaged, because I think it smells gorgeous — bold proportions that instantly conjured another classic, Guerlain Mitsouko, minus the peach at the top. The drydown gets rich and spicy, ultimately winding up on a fairly intense, more-or-less masculine note of vetiver. Lovely. I am completely missing the raunch You hardcore chypre/oriental types should check this out.

Jules is a much-sought-after men’s fragrance from 1980, hard to find, possibly discontinued? (Note from L: you can get it easily in Paris, ma cherie, so my grapevine tells me.) It contains galbanum, black pepper, cedarwood, sandalwood, and Russian leather. March wonders, based on pretty much nothing, whether this fragrance was inspired by Jules et Jim, the French New Wave classic (hey, another menage a trois!) from 1961.

  • Patty: Okay, this stuff is hot. I feel like I just got transported to Pamplona and the running of the Bulls, and I’m not sure I mean the four-legged kind. Spicy and a little rank in a horsey sort of way, I’m thinking this is how Pullo would have smelled (Rome is over – sob!). It just screams for some brute with a swagger and the soul of a poet – or not – to wear it.
  • March: I thought between the galbanum and cedar this would be a scrubber. Instead it reminds me, variously, of: the incense-y bits of Chanel 22; the leathery sparkle of vintage Kolnisch Juchten without the smoked meat; and a drydown I’ll Call Two Tons of Incense and You’ve Got Wood. Particularly interesting because on me it has sort of reverse development: I get the big guns of peppery leather up front, drying down into the lighter incense. Really, what is it about this juice that makes it so sensual? Lee, no offense, but are you sure you labeled this right? Why am I getting all this incense? Also, do you want to sell me your bottle? Seriously — I’m blowing through this particular nose-candy at a terrifying pace.
  • Lee: I had convinced myself that the sample I sent the posse women was on the turn – it has the same quality as the drops of Guerlain’s Derby I have (which, by the way, is a men’s chypre I love, in case anyone feels like splurging on a 140€ bottle for me). However, then I wondered actually whether this is a turn, or just how both of these early 80s numbers start out – pretty sour and peculiar. And I’m sure it is, if my olfactory memory is right – Jules has an oddness to its opening that you don’t find in many men’s scents nowadays. It makes no excuses about manliness – it smells a bit sweaty (and not in the fresh-out-of-the-shower-into-a-hot-sunny-day-kind-of-way), earthy, leathery, bullish. As it dries down, it becomes softer and more of a gentle caress. Damn it though, it’s still virile, and that gentle stroke could go all thrusty any moment. Right, I’m off to curl my somewhat limited chest hair.

image: Jules et Jim, www.arnadal.no

45 Comments

  1. I’m worried about Lee’s headache because I happen to know that he exchanged a bottle of a very precious substance for Querelle. I’d be a bit upset at my swap. I hope you’re not allergic to oakmoss, Lee, because that’s in a lot of great stuff. Corps et Ames coincided with a case of the sniffles recently, and I was relieved to learn that though it’s a chypre, oakmoss is not listed in the notes. It could have been coincidence.

    I love your menage a trois days! Those are awfully silly-looking bathing outfits those guys have on. I almost miss the Stooges.

    • Fortunately I’m not allergic to oakmoss – I think it’s the combinatorial nature of some perfume notes that gets me. And as for the swap – what’s life without a little risk?:d

      If my memory’s right about who’s who, I’m quite taken with Jim’s swimwear (the dark haired Frenchie on the left) and sometimes wish I could get away with wearing such nonsense 100 years on from when it was first designed….

      • Oh, I love those swimsuits! I think they’re very sexy, I wouldn’t laugh at you. I actually have a vintage-looking swimsuit, boylegs and a halter neck, looks like something you’d wear with a turban in the 40s. It definitely stands out in the pool, and I can play with the kids and not worry about flashing anyone… and there’s something demurely sexy about having your skin covered up.8-|

  2. I adore Querelle, but I never found it particularly raunchy. I get a metallic edge to it that I find very enticing, almost addictive.

    Jules IS definitely sensual, though–and also addictive!

    Love your menage!

    • J — I was expecting something borderline unwearable, given some of the things I’d heard. I was really surprised. But the Jules! Hubba hubba.:x

  3. Haven’t read the book or seen the flick (I share Lee’s lack of enthusiasm for Fassbinder) so I don’t get the raunch. What I do get out of Querelle, once the lemon-pledgey top notes settle down, is a beautiful dry incense, smoky vetiver and oakmoss, the whole tinged brownish green. Yep, I love it, might even wear it today (waves to March).
    Jules who? Verne? Sorry, don’t know the guy 🙂
    Hey, what’s up with Bryan, is he no longer part of the Posse? Or the idea of a menage à quatre seems too risqué for you? 😉

    • Dusan — yeah, that vetiver drydown is wonderful. Ultimately it’s a little too masculine for something I’d wear everyday, but yum.

      I’m slowly working through your samps — right now they’re mostly being held in reserve, so to speak, for the menage posts, given all the positive feedback we got for doing men’s scents.

      I dunno about Bryan — P would have to answer that one.

      • I know Bryan’s currently in London on holiday, and he’s been shopping like crazy. I’m hoping to catch up with him at some point.

        • Good for Bryan! What I wouldn’t give to be in his shoes right now… So you two lads are meeting up? Great! Now, why do I live on the wrong side of Europe?! :-((

      • M, glad you’re playing with the samps! 🙂 Have you perchance established the common thread among most of them? You do realize that I’m trying to turn you over to the dark side… of c*d*r :-p

  4. Querelle is a chypre? Really? Boy, I so suck at identifying chypres. I can’t be much better at spotting Raunch, because Querelle struck me as a gentle, slightly sullen, dusky green scent. I’m seeing someone sulking (alone) in a shady clearing, enjoying a bit of luxurious self-pity. Perhaps it’s raunchy in a 60s Julie Christie way? A lot of pouting and looking out the window? That would match with that slight whiff of 60s fougere…St.Michael English Fern Shower Gel (Brits will remember good old St. Michael?). Is it FBW..hmm…hmmm….

    • Your comment cracked me up! There IS a note of pouting and lookng out the window, and I think a slightly sullen, dusky green scent is a pretty fabulous description. But that whole brutal erotic blahblah off the site? Mmmmmmmm, not so much./:)

  5. Like March and Judith, I don’t get the raunch from Querelle – just gorgeousness. However, I don’t think I’ve ever smelled Jules. How is this possible when it sounds like something I’d sell the house for? Racing off to ebay to see just how much of the house will need to be sold.

      • Thanks! 🙂 But March already enabled by pointing me to a site w/ a fab price online. The deed is done. Happy sigh.

  6. Here’s another one not finding Querelle the slightest bit raunchy. In fact, I don’t think it’s a chypre nor an oriental. When I think of chypre I think of something herbal and aromatic with oakmoss, perhaps a bit vintage-styled dry and musty (in a good way) not something straightforwardly green. And Querelle is to me straightforwardly green, a single note vetiver (albeit a dark and masculine vetiver) after the lemon pledge topnote.

    Jules sounds like a must-try! I’m thinking of visiting Paris this summer… I might have to go from London to Bologna anyway so why not make a few stops? (Oh my god the perfume shopping, no, SNIFFING, along the way… Paris! Andy Tauer in Zurich! Milano!

    And Lee – I’m moving to York this autumn. Any special perfume shopping tips in York and/or London? I like places that have a good assortment of niche brands but that are not too snobby and exclusive, not tiny, über-designed places where you feel like a tramp in the eyes of the ever watchful clerk… Not even if the clerk in question is helpful and smiling – I prefer to sniff around in peace and preferably get lost in a crowd of not-too-chic tourists…

    • You know, though some people find it a little sniffy, I’ve always been quite taken with Liberty. The niche section is a little like one of those boutiques of horror you well describe (and even though Les Senteurs is lovely, I still feel on edge when I visit!), but you’re pretty much left alone by most of the SAs and can generally sniff without buying. It’s quiet enough that you don’t feel swamped (Selfridges – ack! and thrice ack!), yet with enough through trade that you’re not the weirdo they want to get rid of. And, to make it clear, I’m a long way from a dressy type… a long way.

      As for York – I haven’t been there for 15 years or so… March might be able to help you out, by the end of May;)

      And I disagree on the Querelle front – it isn’t just a green scent…:)

      • Thanks for the tip, I’ll remember to visit Liberty’s. The most important thing for me is that you can browse and sniff the fragrances by yourself and don’t have to ask for everything. I hate places where they keep everything behind the counter. I understand why, from their point of view, but how are you supposed to crazily smell everything in sight when you have to ask for every single bottle in turn…? Oh so un-spontaneous…

        Ah well, I’ll stay in York for a year so I guess I’ll have plenty of time to sniff out the best perfume shops by myself… Granted there are any, but I hear it’s a big tourist town and not just a university town like Uppsala, so it must be better than here!

        • Uppsala is high on my ‘what a beautiful town!’ list though. Loved my visit there, way back when.

          • Yeah, I guess Uppsala is something of a tourist town too, but it has certainly not reflected on the shopping “district”… The actual commercial centre of the town is ridiculously small, one main street, more or less… But yes it’s beautiful (especially the old graveyard, did you visit it?) and I like it here. I’m planning on returning after my year in York but that depends on where I’m accepted as a full-time PhD student (I’m going to York on a stipend that only covers the first year). I guess Uppsala is so poorly equipped with shopping, nightlife and events because it’s so close to Stockholm, but I’m always too lazy and/or broke to get on a train there…

  7. Querelle is hot, Jules is HOT, you three are Hotter. It’s a Hawt day on Perfume Posse 😡

  8. I was just blown away by your reviews on Jules. Hubba, hubba!

    I’m not familiar with Querelle, but I will be very soon as I am a huge chypre fan. I’m just hoping my skin reacts to it the way March’s does. I’m not a fan of a whole lot of skank, and Patty, your description sounds like it would be a little much for me. I like skank in small doses. Lee’s description is really sad, I would hate to be allergic to chypres. I can’t imagine my life without them. I feel for you.

    • Flor — I can’t remember how your skin reacts compared to mine? Skin chemistry is such a funny thing. Seriously, I had girded myself for something sort of ugly — you know, one of those “interesting” fragrances. To me it smelled sort of like Mitsouko Pour Homme, if that makes any sense. I had “chypre” in there and then deleted it because the drydown ends up more vetiver-y on me, but I still think you’ll like it, and other than the va-voom you’d expect from those notes, I wouldn’t call it skanky.:x Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  9. “As it dries down, it becomes softer and more of a gentle caress. Damn it though, it’s still virile, and that gentle stroke could go all thrusty any moment.”

    OMG… I’m… [fanning self] feeling a bit week in the knees… someone catch me and wave some of this under my nose!

    • I hear you! These were both very interesting scents, it was easy to feel something and write about them. As I’ll be whining in my post tomorrow, I’m having a bit of a dry spell right now as far as fragrance sampling is concerned.:((

  10. Ah, a scent to remind you Pullo! Heh! Now to scent all of the Rome cast, Atia screams Fracas or Poison or something so over the top in price.

    • I am so cross I missed all those. I suppose they’ll come out on DVD eventually and I can rent them?:-?

  11. Jules is just great stuff. Querelle is something else — and I still can’t make up my mind about it. I think I’m giving up, I have already changed my mind so many times that it doesn’t matter anymore.

    • Hey, you just need to buy (and get rid of) a sample a few more times! That’s what I like to do when I can’t make up my mind…;)

  12. Must try these – am a chypre-kind of gal. And, I generally like galbanum – it’s in a couple of old favorites. Seemed to be used more in the 80’s and early 90’s. Anyone know why?

    • My best guess is, it just went out of fashion. Galbanum can make a statement, and the whole Big Statement frags started to look dated like the big shoulder pads. Now if only the fruity-florals would go away…

      • Yes I agree, it was a Big-Statement-time! Still love Safari, though. My skin mellows the galb., whereas it magnifies some patchoulis – which is probably why I don’t get along with a lot of modern concoctions. I agree fruity-florals and sugary-vanilla things need to go the same direction as the shoulder pads – blech!

  13. Going to have to try Querelle. Jules looks as if he’s quite pricey on the internets. Oh well. :((

    • You know, I had a sample of this one that I hadn’t tried yet. I tried. I bought. Thank goodness for tax refunds!

  14. Jules is such an underrated oldie but goodie. I think what gets me about it is the tobacco note in the heart. It smells a little dated in a way, but it’s such a wonderful smell that it seems almost gauche to even mention it. After the top burns off, you’re left with such a dark rich fragrance… what a pity that it seems to be slowly disappearing. I love the old Gruau ads ) for Jules so much, too.

    • Katie – thanks for that. His ads are exceptional – he makes me fall in lust with his ideal of Dior manhood (much more than I do with Hedi Slimane’s waifs). I’d seen the Eau Sauvage ads, but the Jules one was new to me. Yum scrum.

      hope your back is improving!

  15. You guys always make me cheery. I love Querelle and could see wearing it a lot this summer if I found a bottle calling my name in my local Nordstrom. I am so lucky I have to make an effort to purchase a lot of these super exclusive cosmopolitan perfumes. If I lived in a city I’d be even more broke than I am. Denyse and I sampled Jules in the Sephora in Paris near Guerlain. I liked it. It had an air of quality.

    • “An air of quality”. Kind of sums us three up really!=))

      Thanks Cait!

  16. Hiya guys,
    I love your menage a trois reviews so please keep them up. It is excellent to get your varied view on perfumes so there is a greater insight on how they are built and work and appeal to different people.
    I thought I was finally building a not bad catalogue of scents but now here are two more to go on my must try list. I am trying to ration myself and carefully list all those samples for the next buy and then I spot something on ebay and all my good intentions go out the window.:”>

    • I’m much more ruthless in what I will, and will not purchase nowadays. I think I’ve (almost) reached saturation point.

      • Yeah I can see that as a possibility and yet how sad. When you reach(almost)saturation I guess it is hard to find something that is not just a variation on a theme but is still compositionally interesting, a little unique(!) and uses notes you enjoy. I have a waaaay to go to there yet as I am still exploring and that is just plain enjoyable. Then again without you guys I would be a lot more poor in Knowledge so in homage^:)^

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